Spencer Haywood was talking to a reporter Wednesday when he got another call.
It was from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the call he had been waiting weeks for. He told the reporter he would call back and took the other call.
But the news from Springfield, Mass., wasn’t good. Haywood was told he wouldn’t be a member of the Class of 2014.
The man who changed the game forever by suing the NBA in 1970 for the right to play before he had graduated from college, then won his case in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971, had been denied entry again. Denied despite a resume that includes 17,111 points and 8,675 rebounds in 13 seasons in the NBA and the American Basketball Association.
“I don’t know what it is,” Haywood, 64, said Thursday from his Las Vegas home. “I can’t look at it no other way but in the spirit world because it doesn’t make sense in the real world.”
After a bizarre situation a year ago, when Haywood thought he had made the Hall only to learn later that he was not a part of the Class of 2013, he was one of 10 finalists this year. He was confident that this was going to be his year.
“I was all set to go with my family to Dallas,” he said of Monday’s official announcement at the Final Four. “My daughters are very disappointed. But I’m OK. I believe God is setting me up for something bigger and better. But I don’t know what can be bigger or better than the Hall of Fame.”
Haywood’s supporters point to his place in history for changing the early entry rule that allowed players from Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan to LeBron James to leave college early, or, in James’ case, bypass college to earn a living in the NBA.
There also are supporters who point to his numbers. He averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds for his career, was a five-time All-Star and won an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980.
Haywood has two more years of eligibility remaining in the Hall’s North American category. A finalist needs at least 18 votes for induction from the 24-member Honors Committee.
“I’m not sure they’ve looked at my stats and what I’ve done,” Haywood said. “But I guess I have to go through these things. Look at my history — I’ve always taken the hard road instead of the smooth road. But maybe next year.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.